In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will slice through her bed sheets as though her toenails were samurai swords . She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
The episode opens on a spinning merry-go-round, because let’s make Jenny car sick. We’re hanging out at the spooky midnight playground, y’all, where a little boy is waiting for his mom to pick him up. It’s full dark, guys. And the kid says that his mom is always late. In Sunnydale. #8
Oh, and great job, obvious danger ignoring mom, because here comes Drusilla to munch on your kid. She’s dressed like a Victorian ghost and she starts talking about her mother singing to her:
Drusilla: “She had the sweetest voice. What will your mummy sing, when they find your body?”
Luckily, Angel arrives and scares the kid off, before confronting Drusilla and warning her to clear out of Sunnydale. She laments that Angel has changed, and implies that he’s changed because of or for Buffy, and we cut to a rooftop, where Buffy is walking around, looking for vamps. As Drusilla starts getting up all close on Angel’s junk, talking about how his heart stinks of the Slayer, we see that the rooftop overlooks ye olde haunted playground. Buffy sees Angel and Drusilla in intimate proximity, and presumably overhears him when he tells Drusilla that a vague “this” has to end.
And Buffy does not look thrilled at this news.
After the opening credits, we’re at Sunnydale high where Giles and Jenny Calendar are being indescribably cute. She wants to plan a date without telling him where they’re going or what they’re doing:
Giles: “I think it’s customary that when two people are going out of an evening, that they both have an idea of where they’re going.”
Jenny: “Oh come on, where is your sense of adventure?”
Giles: “But I-I– how will I know what to wear?”
Jenny: “Do you own anything else?”
Okay, one of you magnificent bastards sent me a screenshot of that scene with the caption, “Bet he owns a stack of Barry White albums and a six-pack of Magnums,” and I cannot find it again anywhere. If you’re out there, please… link it in the comments. I need that in my life again.
Giles says something about putting himself in Jenny’s hands and Jenny spins it into an innuendo and Giles gets the most adorable little embarrassed smile and I want them to be in love forever and ever because they deserve it, god bless America, and may Joss Whedon get a hair caught in his mouth once a week until the end of his days for what he did to them and by extension the viewer oh god oh god it’s only ten episodes away and I AM NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR THIS!
So, anyhoo, Buffy shows up and starts talking to Giles about the continuing Spike storyline, at which point Giles realizes that Buffy is really subdued and kind of gloomy. He tries to cheer her up by suggesting she take the night off and spend time with Angel and hold up, Giles. I get that the dynamic is different here, because Angel is her undead boyfriend or whatever, but you’re a Watcher. You’re supposed to not encourage your Slayer to hang with vampires! No fucking wonder you get fired, dude.
In history class, Buffy and Willow are passing notes about the woman Buffy saw Angel talking to. The big misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a single conversation spills into the hallway, where Xander overhears them talking about Angel being friendly with the mystery woman.
Xander: “Who’s friendly?”
Buffy: “No one.”
Willow: “Angel and a girl.”
Way to fuck over Buffy by revealing sensitive personal info, when she makes it clear through her facial expression and tone that she doesn’t want to discuss this in front of Xander. And of course, Xander can’t not spin it back to himself:
Xander: “Hey, it’s me. If Angel’s doing something wrong, I want to know. ‘Cause it gives me a happy.”
Hey, Buffy! I’m just going to use your personal problem as yet another way to remind you that I’m waiting patiently in case you ever realize that you really love me and/or I wear you down.
Xander suggests that the way Buffy can get over her sadness is by going to the Bronze with him. I assume Willow’s invitation is implied. But as Buffy is trying to find a way to refuse, a new threat to Xander’s supreme male dominance emerges: Buffy’s old middle school crush, a kid named Ford who seems to be wearing a basketball pinnie, has come to school at Sunnydale.
If you had any doubt, let me assure you that Xander hates Ford. At first sight. Immediately. If he had even a modicum of concern for Buffy, he might think to himself, “Wow, I know Buffy has been having a rough time adapting to Sunnydale life. I’m so glad there’s someone here from her old school, who is going through a similar experience.” Instead, he just sees Ford as one more roadblock to overcome on the Nice Guy superhighway to Buffy’s open and willing vagina.
Something that strikes me as odd in this scene, continuity wise, is that Buffy says she’d had a crush on Ford, but that he wouldn’t give her the time of day. There have already been references made to Buffy’s popularity at her old school, and later in the series it’s made clear that it was Cordelia Chase level popularity. So, why was Ford out of her league? I don’t quite get that one.
When Buffy takes Ford off to class, Xander snipes about how unfair it is that Buffy doesn’t know any “fat guys,” (read: “guys she’s not attracted in so she has to take me by default”) and Willow realizes for the first time what the song “I Touch Myself” is about.
You know what? That’s a great song, and we should all share it right now:
Remember when that song came out, and the band had to like, furiously deny that the lyrics in any way implied masturbation? Oh, 1990’s. You so cray.
Later that evening, Buffy arrives at The Bronze to find Ford telling Willow and Xander embarrassing stories about her. She objects strenuously, and Ford says:
Ford: “You can’t touch me, Summers. I know all your darkest secrets.”
Xander: “Care to make a small wager on that?”
Xander’s jealousy is so tiring. It’s like this never-ending road of despair that I’m staring down. I have hit the wall when it comes to Xander’s jealousy over Buffy, and it’s only the fourth mile of this marathon.
Buffy goes to get a drink (it’s weird how casually the kids on this show hang out in a bar and refer generically to getting a drink without specifying that it’s not alcohol) and runs into Angel. Xander takes great delight in pointing out Angel to Ford. It’s like he’s gloating over someone else’s win here. While that’s going on, Buffy asks Angel what he was doing the night before, with the most aggressive subtle questions ever. Angel claims he stayed in all night, reading, and all I can hear is Neil Kellerman in Dirty Dancing saying, “There are no books in Johnny’s room.”
Buffy obviously doesn’t buy his story, because she saw him talking to Drusilla with her own two eyes. She walks away, and when he follows her, she introduces him to Ford and then invites Ford to take a walk with her. So now Angel is all jealous of Ford, too, because the only way the writers can convey the love between Buffy and Angel is by making them constantly jealous and uncommunicative.
While on their walk, Buffy overhears vampire noises, and she tells Ford she left her purse at The Bronze and could he please run and go get it for her? Ford heads off to go do this, but then he hears fighting noises and sees a crying woman running, so he has to check this shit out. He comes into an alley and finds Buffy dusting a vamp. And her caught face is all:
She also gives him what is possibly the single most unconvincing cover story Buffy ever tries to pull:
Buffy: “Um… There was a-a cat. A cat here… and, um, then there was another cat. And they fought. The cats. And… then they left.”
Ford: “Oh. I thought you were just slaying a vampire.”
This response obviously comes as a shock to Buffy, who is used to having all the people in town walking around in a state of perpetual vampire blindness, even when they’re fangs-to-neck with one. Ford reveals that he knew she was the Slayer, but he was waiting for the right time to tell her that he knew.
Later, Buffy and Willow are the phone.
Buffy tells Willow that Ford found out she was the Slayer right before she got kicked out of her old school. Willow suggests it’s pretty cool to have another friend in on the secret, and Buffy semi-reluctantly agrees, because now she doesn’t have to worry about hiding her secret from one more person in her life.
Cut to Ford walking down a dark street at night. Since we know he’s aware of the existence of vampires, and there is ominous music playing on the soundtrack, we know nothing good is about to happen. He goes to a heavily fortified door with a doorman and a logo of a sun above it, and goes inside.
It’s a goth club, which seems like it wouldn’t be preppy Ford’s scene, but someone there knows him. It’s this dude, in the shimmery cape and ruffled cravat:
This guy is Marvin, who prefers to be called Diego, but whom I shall henceforth refer to as Count Liberace, because seriously? That ensemble is ripped directly from the Las Vegas Hilton. Marvin asks Ford how “it” went, and reminds him that a lot of people are counting on him. For what, they don’t say, but then Ford says:
Ford: “A couple more days, and we’ll get to do the two things every American teen should have the chance to do: die young, and stay pretty.”
Then he starts mouthing along to lines from the Jack Palance version of Dracula, so obviously, he’s planning on becoming a vampire.
After the commercial break, Angel knocks on the exterior door in Willow’s room. Um, excuse me, but who thought that was a good idea, to put your teenager in a bedroom with a ground floor exterior door?! Willow invites Angel in, and he tells her he needs help tracking down someone on the internet, because #15. Willow agrees, but then he tells her he’s looking for records on Ford.
Willow: “Uh, Angel? If I say something you really don’t want to hear, do you promise not to bite me?”
Angel admits that he’s jealous, but it’s played up like it’s some romantic thing, because he talks about how he never cared about anyone and he was alone, blah blah fuckity blah, and she’s so special and that’s why he’s jealous. But he also says he has a weird feeling about the guy, so Willow agrees to help. Within seconds, they learn that Billy isn’t even enrolled at Sunnydale. Before they can dig any further, Willow’s mom interrupts them, and Angel has to make a dash for it. Willow tells him to come back the next night at sunset, and they agree not to tell Buffy what they’re doing until they know something is actually up.
The next day at school, Willow is all weird about keeping a secret from Buffy, but Buffy chalks it up to Willow having too much caffeine, so her cover isn’t blown. Giles runs into Buffy in the hallway, but since Ford is there, he has to talk in like, Watcher code or something, which is almost as painfully awkward as Buffy’s two cats story:
Giles: “Buffy. Um… yes, uh, Ms. Calendar and I are going somewhere tonight, and she’s given me the number of her beeper thingie, uh, in case you need me? For, um… study help, uh… suddenly.”
“Beeper thingie” is probably one of my favorite things Giles has ever said.
Buffy tells Giles that Ford knows about her Slayer secret, and Giles pulls her aside to ask if she’s using her secret identity to impress guys. She tells him that Ford figured it out himself, and Giles seems strangely okay with this. Tell me again why this guy is the Watcher for the only Slayer on the planet? Shouldn’t it ring some alarm bells that this random teenager knows about the Slayer at all?
Cut to a night scene of Buffy and Ford going for a stroll around the school. Ford spots two vampires, and he’s ready to help Buffy kill them. She takes both of them on at once and ends up tumbling over a railing with one of them. Left behind on the upper level of the school lawn or whatever is going on in this multilevel fight, Ford pins the other vampire at stake point and says he won’t kill her if she tells him what he wants to know. Buffy stakes her vamp and runs back to Ford, who claims he killed the other vampire and it turned to dust, but he’s not terribly convincing.
Willow tells Xander and Angel that she has only been able to track down one address connected to Ford, and that’s the Sunset Club. The fact that Ford has absolutely no paper trail is suspicious to the three, who are heading to check out the club during this very conversation. They get in by telling the doorman that they’re friends of Ford, and inside they meet Chantarelle, who is later Anne Steele. Yes. Really. Chantarelle tells them they shouldn’t feel weird about being there, because they welcome followers of “the lonely ones.” She tells Willow, Xander, and Angel that vampires don’t really want to hurt anybody, they’ve just gotten a bad rep, and Angel has the most spectacular “are you fucking kidding me” expression on the entire time. He disputes Chantarelle’s belief in kind, gentle vampires, and she excuses herself from the conversation with some good old-fashioned tone policing about how “confrontational” Angel is getting. Then Angel rants to Willow and Xander that these people don’t know anything about vampires. They don’t even get the costumes right:
As the gang leaves, Count Liberace overhears them saying something is weird about the Slayer’s old friend hanging out with vampire cultists.
Cut to the library, where Buffy has interrupted Giles’s date with Jenny. Giles is totally fine with this, as Jenny’s big surprise date was a monster truck rally. I’m not sure if monster trucks are as ubiquitous elsewhere in the world as in America, but imagine a dog obedience competition where all the dogs are heavily modified pick up trucks with enormous tires and sometimes there’s a giant robot dinosaur that eats cars. Jenny thought changing things up for Giles would be fun, and she’s clearly hurt that neither Buffy nor Giles thought it was a good idea.
Buffy was concerned as to why two vampires were hanging out so close to the school (and by extension, the Hellmouth), so they hit the books to research. That’s when Buffy finds an antique photograph of Drusilla conveniently tucked in the first book she chooses:
Buffy: “Who’s this?”
Giles: “Um, she’s called Drusilla. A sometime paramour of Spike’s. She was killed by an angry mob in Prague.”
Buffy: “Well, they don’t make angry mobs like they used to, ’cause this girl’s alive.”
Buffy tells Giles and Ms. Calendar that she saw Drusilla with Angel, which they find weird because Angel is supposed to be a good guy. They agree they should research her some more, and as Giles goes to his office for more books, he’s knocked down by the vampire Ford claimed to have dusted.
Giles: “A book! It took one of my books!”
Every book lover who has ever watched this episode counts this as the scariest thing that could possibly happen to them. A vampire could come… and it could take your books.
Buffy realizes that the vampire who stole Giles’s book is the same vamp that Ford claimed to have staked. Uh. Oh. The Slayer is on to you, Ford, and your days are numbered.
Well, they’re numbered anyway, but we’ll get to that.
Meanwhile, back at the factory, Drusilla is coaxing a dead bird to sing. Spike has heard about her little rendezvous with Angel, and he’s not happy about it. He wants to know what they talked about, but Dru is distracted, still trying to get the bird to sing, and Spike snaps.
Spike: “The bird’s dead, Dru. You left it in a cage, and you didn’t feed it, and now it’s all dead. Just like the last one.”
This makes Dru upset, and Spike is immediately remorseful. He tells her he doesn’t like her going out on her own, and really, can you blame him? This isn’t Christian Grey level “you’re not safe unless you’re with me” paranoia. They live in a town that has a Slayer, they’ve rolled up into other vampires’ turf and took over, and Dru isn’t exactly in fighting shape, mentally. Keeping her inside really is a necessity.
Since so many people have pointed it out, you can add this scene to your “Spike has the capacity for love, even though he doesn’t have a soul like Angel does” scorecard.
Actually… let’s make that #19: Spike has the capacity to love despite his lack of soul. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never quite gotten behind the whole “Spike is worse than Angel because he tried to rape Buffy!” banner. Yeah, Spike did try to rape Buffy and that is awful and inexcusable in any way, shape or form, and the show handled it really, really badly. But you know what the show handled worse? The fact that Angel gaslighted Drusilla, killed her family, presumably raped her (I believe it’s strongly hinted in a flashback, if I’m misremembering, correct me in the comments), and turned her into a vampire, shattering her sanity. The storyline of the series asks you repeatedly to forgive him for this, in the interest of preserving the romance, because he feels really bad about it. That’s pretty fucked up, too.
Spike promises to get Dru another bird, and then he’s shocked as hell when Ford the Human just strolls right in.
Ford: “I know who you are.”
Spike: “Yeah, I know who I am, too. So what?”
Hey, look, it’s Vampire Barbie!
Vampire Barbie delivers the book she stole from Giles, which she was obtaining for Spike. Ford basically thinks this whole thing is going to go down like a movie, where he and Spike are going to have some witty banter. Ford is an idiot, because Spike is just like, “Nope, gonna kill you,” before Dru stops him. Ford asks Spike to participate in the action movie banter he had dreamed up, and Spike is all:
Ford tells Spike he wants to be a vampire, and Spike says:
Spike: “I’ve known you two minutes and I can’t stand you, I don’t really feature you living forever. Can I eat him now, love?”
But Ford isn’t intimidated, which tells the audience that Ford really has nothing to lose. In fact, he’s got so little to lose, he offers Spike the Slayer in return for immortality.
Back at the Summer’s house, Angel drops by to hang out and maybe catch a movie with Buffy. Ha ha, no. He’s there to WARN HER OF DANGER. But when he tells her that he, Xander and Willow have been spying on Ford behind her back, she’s not real comfortable with that. And this pushes her to bust Angel for the Drusilla meeting:
Buffy: “Who’s Drusilla? And don’t lie to me, I’m tired of it.”
Angel: “Some lies are necessary.”
Buffy: “For what?”
Angel: “Sometimes the truth is worse. You live long enough, you find that out.”
*Raises hand* Um, Mr. Angel? How does the truth being unpalatable make lies necessary? Because it sounds like you’re mixing up “necessary” and “comfortable.” Buffy seems to think so, too, because when Angel asks her if she loves him, she says:
Buffy: “I love you. I don’t know if I trust you.”
Angel confesses that he not only made Drusilla into a vampire, but he visited every possible torture he could think of upon her. Throwing a quick feminism flag on the play here: we’re meant to feel sorry for Drusilla and more disgusted with Angel’s actions because he describes her as being pure and chaste and virtuous when he targeted her for torment. But wouldn’t it have been just as horrible to mentally and physically torture someone who wasn’t chaste and perfect? #6, because this is such a pervasive cultural… thing.
After Buffy hears the truth from Angel, she’s not sure she’s happy to have heard it, but I think her original point stands. You can’t trust someone who feels compelled to protect you from the truth. Especially if their idea of “protection” is “don’t think badly of me.” #9
Angel tells Buffy about Ford’s involvement with the vampire groupies, and says that although he doesn’t know what Ford wants with the Slayer, she can’t trust him. Which probably doesn’t mean a lot coming from the guy who just said he plans on lying to you when convenient.
The next day at school, Ford asks Buffy if she can hang out again, and she agrees to meet him at nine that night, even though she knows now that something is up. She runs into Willow and Xander, and the reception she gives them is equally chilly. Buffy is officially in a place where she can’t trust anyone, because they’ve all been going behind her back on shit. Willow tries to justify it by saying Angel was really concerned for her, but it’s clear that she knows she’s done fucked up.
Back at Le Chateau Hot Topic, Chantarelle, Ford, and Count Liberace are preparing for “the change.” When CL tells Ford that his “friends” stopped by, he’s furious, but he quickly assures Chantarelle that everything is going to be all right. To which Buffy, who has made a stealthy entrance, replies that it isn’t. Also, she calls Ford a lying scumbag, and he reinforces the “everybody lies” theme of the episode. Wait, did I accidentally start watching House, M.D.?
Buffy realizes that Ford was planning on giving Buffy away in trade, and they lock her in with them to wait for the vampires to come. Then Buffy makes the face that I make every time I realize I’m trying to have a rational argument about social issues with a fervently religious person:
After the commercial break, Chantarelle tries to patiently explain that it’s actually a really good thing that they’re all going to be turned into vampires. I’m not sure if they’re trying to convert Buffy here or what, but it’s not working:
Chantarelle: “This is a beautiful day. Can’t you see that?”
Buffy: “What I see is that right after the sun goes down, Spike and all of his friends are going to be pigging out at the all-you-can-eat moron bar.”
Count Liberace fears her non-belief will taint them (sound familiar?), but they can all agree on one thing: his outfit is hella broke. No, seriously. Buffy cracks on Mr. Sparkle Cape, and Ford backs her up while Chantarelle discreetly laughs at him.
At the factory, Spike is prepping his team to go in and– shocker– eat all the people in the club and kill the Slayer, while Buffy is still trying to find a way out of the bunker. Ford admits to Buffy that he’s the only one getting changed. Chantarelle, Liberace, all the other dumb suckers who’ve bought into the myth of his vampire religion are totally screwed. Buffy breaks down the real deal about being a vampire– you die, and the demon just walks right in and takes your memories and life– but Ford is cool with that, because as far as he’s concerned, he’s dead already. He has terminal brain cancer, and this is his one shot at survival. Buffy sympathizes with him, but she’s still not down with his plan. She busts him out on the fact that he’s basically been planning his life as a movie, and says she’s going to kill him herself when the vampires show up.
The music in this scene by the way? It’s ace.
Buffy begs Ford to help her stop the vampire massacre, and when he won’t she tries to warn the rest of the people that they’re not getting turned. Except, she kind of pulls a Ford and goes for a big speech, when what she really should have done was yell, “He only made a deal for himself, the rest of you are going to die!” Because before she manages to get that point across, Ford hits her and knocks her down the stairs. They hear the door opening, and Chantarelle heads up to meet their saviors. Spike grabs Chantarelle and starts feeding from her, and then the rest of the vampires do that whole moron buffet thing Buffy predicted. Buffy sees Drusilla and vaults a railing to get at her, and Drusilla just kind of stands there while Buffy holds a stake to her chest. So, this is why Drusilla isn’t allowed out on her own. Her reaction time to possible threats is like, two hours, minimum.
Buffy orders Spike to let everyone go, or else she’ll stake Dru. He does, and Buffy pushes Drusilla at him so she can make a quick getaway. She locks the vampires inside the club and runs outside to find Angel, Willow, and Xander there, already helping survivors. Things are still not cool between Buffy and her friends. She tells them that there are vampires inside, but they’ll get out soon enough. When they do, she’ll come back “for the body.”
Because she left Ford locked in there with the vamps.
Remember that in season 7, when everyone accuses her of not being able to make tough choices and shit. Traitor douche bags.
Ford thinks he’s still getting turned into a vampire, but Spike isn’t real happy with the whole “the Slayer got away” plan. Ford gets all demanding, and we cut from Spike’s “Are you fucking kidding me?” face to Buffy coming to claim Ford’s exsanguinated body.
Later at Ford’s grave (why is he buried in Sunnydale, if his family didn’t actually live there? What is happening to all these kids who come to Sunnydale and die? Do their parents just never claim them?), Buffy tells Giles that nothing in her life is ever simple anymore, and he tells her that’s part of growing up. Then Ford bursts from his grave and Buffy stakes him. Then she and Giles have one of my all-time favorite Buffy and Giles exchanges:
Buffy: “Does it get easy?”
Giles: “What do you want me to say?”
Buffy: “Lie to me.”
Giles: “Yes, it’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after. “
This is such a cool conversation, because it’s a blatant warning to the viewer that shit is about to get real this season. We all had our fun, but now it’s time for us to accept (as the Slayer must accept over and over again throughout the series) that the world is a dark and scary place, and Buffy has not adequately been prepared to accept this until now. She asks Giles to lie to her because he’s never withheld anything important from her. Willow, Xander, and Angel believed that because their intentions were good, Buffy wouldn’t be hurt by their actions, but they’ve fractured her trust in them and proven that they don’t understand the world she inhabits. These are themes that were hinted at before, then fully established and cemented in this episode. They’ll continue on for the rest of the series, making “Lie To Me” one of the most important episodes in the entire series– despite the fact that the pace is for shit. It’s like thirty minutes of everyone making bad choices and not communicating, followed by ten minutes of plot wrap up.
Here’s another thing I want to address: there is no fucking continuity about what it takes to be made into a vampire. A few times in the series, we’ll hear that to become a vampire, a vampire has to drink your blood and you have to drink the vampire’s blood. Other times, people who have just been fed on to death become vampires. Spike explicitly stated that he didn’t want to turn Ford into a vampire, and he was pissed off and locked up alone with him. Are we to believe that Spike still honored his agreement with the guy he couldn’t stand? How does the vampire turning thing actually work? Why didn’t they pick one story and stick to it?